The tool is designed to help all patients—whether on Medicare or not—locate health professionals in their communities. The information on the site includes contact and address information for offices, the professional's medical specialty, where the professional completed his or her degree as well as residency or other clinical training, whether the professional speaks a foreign language, and the professional's gender. The tool can also help Medicare beneficiaries identify which physicians participate in Medicare.
Physician Compare also shows consumers whether the practice reported certain data to CMS through the Physician Quality Reporting System. Currently, PQRI is voluntary and rewards physicians and other healthcare professionals for reporting data on quality measures related to Medicare beneficiaries. In 2009, more than 200,000 healthcare professionals reported data to CMS through the PQRI.
Later this year, CMS plans a second phase of the tool which will indicate whether professionals chose to participate in a voluntary effort to encourage doctors to prescribe medicines electronically. Eventually, Physician Compare will include information about the quality of care Medicare beneficiaries receive from physicians and the other healthcare professionals profiled on the site. The expansion will include information on quality of care and patient experience that can help consumers learn more about the care provided by Medicare-participating physicians. CMS is required by the Affordable Care Act to develop a plan to implement this expansion by 2013.
"Today's release of Physician Compare moves us closer towards CMS' goal to improve the quality of healthcare for people with Medicare in all the places where they receive care, including the doctor's office," Berwick said. "By using a considered, step-wise approach to spotlighting quality of care, we can create a tool that will help doctors and patients for decades to come."